I find mushrooms incredible … their sole function is to lift their spores out of the ground to be carried away by the wind. So why do they have this immense variety of shapes, colors, and constituents, some of them psychoactive? As far as we know, they don’t communicate with other mushrooms above the ground, and they don’t use these toxins to protect themselves. There’s something else going on that we don’t understand.
Gagosian is pleased to present “Reason,” recent work by Carsten Höller, his first exhibition in New York since the New Museum survey in 2011.
Towering mushroom collages, a maze of mirrored panels, abstract paintings, hyperreal little fishes, an environment for children in the form of a huge dice: Höller unites art, play, and phenomenology to transform the gallery into a laboratory of reason and the incomprehensible. With a professional formation in the natural sciences, Höller has long been fascinated by the unique attributes and behaviors of people, fungi, and animals. The Giant Triple Mushroom (2015) sculptures combine enlarged cross-sections of three different species, fungal hybrids that seem at once empirical and surreal. Fly agaric mushrooms always make up at least half of these sculptures; like many of Höller’s topics, they are both formally and conceptually captivating, incarnations of “irrationality with a method.” When ingested, they can induce hallucinogenic effects—as seen in Muscimol (1996), an early video of the artist under the influence. Flying Mushrooms (2015) is a giant stabile with moving parts, which turns when its lowest arm is pushed, causing a crop of seven fly agaric replicas to orbit slowly through the air, living up to their name. Each mushroom is cut vertically down the middle, then reassembled so that one half is upright and the other upended, the distinctive white-spotted red caps spinning like propellers at either end of their stems.
Höller searches for reason only to escape or disprove it. He allows experience to surpass meaning, and provides a model for infinity through radical simplicity. While his Divisions paintings, animal works, and neon objects embody this model, Revolving Doors (2004/16) repeats the mirrored image endlessly, creating a mise-en-abîme that engulfs those who enter it in a multitude of ever-changing reflections.
Carsten Höller was born in 1961 in Brussels, Belgium to German parents and lives in Stockholm, Sweden, and Biriwa, Ghana. Institutional exhibitions include the 50th Biennale di Venezia (2003); "Carsten Höller: One Day One Day," Färgfabriken, Stockholm (2003); 7th Biennale de Lyon (2003); "Carsten Höller: Half Fiction," Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (2003); "Carsten Höller: 7,8 Hz," Le Consortium, France (2004); "Carsten Höller: Une exposition à Marseille," Musée d'Art Contemporain, Marseille (2004); 51st Biennale di Venezia (2005); "Carsten Höller: Test Site," Tate Modern, London (2006); "Carsten Höller: Amusement Park," MASS MoCA, North Adams, MA (2006); "Carsten Höller: Carrousel," Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria (2008); "Carsten Höller: The Double Club," Fondazione Prada, London (2008); 28th Bienal de São Paulo (2008); "Carsten Höller: Double Slide," Museum of Contemporary Art, Zagreb, Croatia (2009); 53rd Biennale di Venezia (2009); 8th Gwangju Biennale (2010); "Carsten Höller: Divided Divided," Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam (2010); "Carsten Höller: Soma," Hamburger Bahnhof, Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin (2010); "Carsten Höller: Double Carousel with Zöllner Stripes," MACRO- Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Roma, Italy (2011); "Carsten Höller: Experience," New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York (2011); 11th Sharjah Biennale (2013); "Carsten Höller: LEBEN," Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Vienna (2014); 8th Berlin Biennial for Contemporary Art (2014); 10th Gwangju Biennale (2014); "Carsten Höller: Golden Mirror Carousel," National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (2014–15); 56th Biennale di Venezia (2015); "Carsten Höller: Decision," Hayward Gallery, London (2015); and “Carsten Höller: Doubt,” Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan (2016).
Höller’s Slide at the ArcelorMittal Orbit, an addition to Anish Kapoor’s ArcelorMittal Orbit (2012) commissioned in 2016, is permanently installed at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London. This fall, a new monumental slide will be installed permanently at the Aventura Mall in Florida.